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Kevin Youkilis got the offense started. After receiving a well deserved standing ovation and many “Yoooouuukk” chants, Youkilis grounded a ball up the middle for a single. Adam Dunn then grounded out to second baseman Pedro Ciriaco, but Youkilis continued to run to third on the play. Adrian Gonzalez threw the ball wildly to third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The ball went past Middlebrooks allowing Youkilis to score the first run of the game, giving the White Sox the early 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the first inning Carl Crawford received a warm welcome in his first at bat of the 2012 season, although it wasn’t quite up to par with the response Youkilis was awarded. Crawford singled up the middle in his first plate appearance of the year. David Ortiz followed with a single of his own, allowing Crawford to advance to third. Adrian Gonzalez then atoned for his error earlier by hitting a sharp ground ball down the first base line. Crawford scored tying the game 1-1.
The early scoring did not set the tone for the game as both pitchers shut down the opposing offenses. The next runs were not scored until the bottom of the eighth inning. Following back-to-back walks of Crawford and Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez blasted his seventh home run the season to put the Sox on top 4-1. The thrill of the home run was overrun with a feeling of concern as David Ortiz hobbled off the field and into the clubhouse. Cody Ross then singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After a Jarrod Saltalamacchia strikeout, Will Middlebrooks grounded out to short, but Ross advanced to third. Ross then scored the fifth and final Red Sox run when Mike Aviles singled on hit to right field.
Alfredo Aceves came on to finish the game in the ninth inning, even though it was a non-save situation.
The starting pitchers for both teams performed tremendously in Monday night’s game. For the Red Sox, Aaron Cook delivered another strong performance, and has really earned his spot in the rotation. Tonight, Cook went seven strong innings allowing just the one run on five hits. Cook didn’t record a strike out, but he also didn’t allow a walk. He utilized his cut-fastball and his sinker to perfection to record 15 ground outs.
Dylan Axelrod performed well, which is a good sign for the White Sox who are experiencing a patch-work rotation due to injuries. Axelrod went 6.2 innings allowing seven hits, one earned run, walked none, and struck out eight batters. In a game that was supposed to be about the return of two key players, the starting pitchers took over the spotlight.
All eyes were focused on the return of Kevin Youkilis to Boston following the trade to Chicago in June. Youkilis received a standing ovation when he left the dugout to start stretching, and he received a long, well-deserved ovation in his first at-bat. He singled in his first at bat, doubled in his next two at bats, and struck out in his final at bat. He scored Chicago’s only run of the game. It’s good to see Youkilis has found his groove in Chicago.
Slightly overshadowed by the return of Youkilis was Carl Crawford making his first appearance in the 2012 season. Crawford went 1-3 with a walk and two runs scored. While his return was not jaw dropping, he looked sharp in his first game of the season. The only thing to watch out is how that left elbow holds up over the remainder of the season.